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Explore 10 Of California's Most Fascinating Ghost Towns

Katie
Posted Oct 26, 2017

Some of us are natural explorers and some of us are not but with this list, you can choose your own comfort level to make sure that you have an amazing time visiting some of California’s best ghost towns. This list covers everything, from registered ghost town parks, where you can participate in safe tours, to exploring unkept ghost towns where you can see first hand how things were left at the exact moment of abandonment.

We have written special warnings for sites that you explore on your own, so please heed our advice and go ghost town hunting with caution. Be sure to take your camera, as ghost towns create the perfect atmosphere for photographic memoirs.

1. Bodie



Bodie, in Mono County, is one of California’s best-preserved ghost towns, with an interesting history. In 1859, four prospectors discovered gold in a nearby area and so, in 1876, large-scale mining began. By late 1878, over 22 mines were in use and just two years later the population swelled to over 8,500 people.

An interesting tidbit of information is that there were over 65 saloons in the area, today though, only five percent of Bodie’s buildings remain standing today. The location of Bodie can be a bit difficult, as it is off of Highway 270 and the last three miles (4.8 km) are a dusty dirt road.

Bodie

Address: Google map of location

Website: Bodie

See our full list of recommended hotels in California and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in California

2. Allensworth


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In August 1908, Allensworth was the first African American settlement in the West. Colonel Allen Allensworth and four other settlers established the town that was founded, financed and governed by African Americans. In the town itself, there are now 10 fully restored buildings, including a library, church, schoolhouse, and hotel.

There are also a number special events, which take place throughout the year, so be sure to contact them to see what is happening during your visit.

Allensworth

Address: Google map of location

Website: Allensworth

See our full list of recommended hotels in California and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in California

3. Red Mountain Mining Town

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This was a booming mining town in the 1920’s, with about 400 residents, split over three local mining areas. Luckily, there is still plenty to see, including mining cabins, the local church and also numerous saloons, which were popular in their prime!

Red Mountain Mining Town

Address: Google map of location

Website: Red Mountain Mining Town

See our full list of recommended hotels in California and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in California

4. Ballarat

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This mining town from the 1880’s had over 500 families during its most popular time. Sadly, by 1903, the mining industry closed down and so by 1917, everyone had left and the buildings became abandoned. Interestingly, the infamous Manson family lived here in 1969!

Although only a few buildings still remain, there are many foundations of the miner’s cabins and general stores. It is said that this town has a year-round population of just one and his dog.

Ballarat

Address: Google map of location

Website: Ballarat

See our full list of recommended hotels in California and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in California

5. Bombay Beach




The reason for the abandonment of this location is due to the fact that the rising Salton Sea swamped part of this trailer community and it never recovered. As such, you need to be very cautious, as many of the buildings are either underwater or half stuck in the mud.

In the 1950s and 60s, this area was thriving but it became polluted, adding to the flooding issues and the town was abandoned by the mid-1970s. What remains are the trailers, boarded-up buildings and plenty of stranded cars.

Bombay Beach

Address: Google map of location

Website: Bombay Beach

See our full list of recommended hotels in California and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in California

6. North Bloomfield

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This early 1800s settlement is just 26 miles (41 km) northeast of Nevada City and, as many other locations, it was created at the time of the gold rush. By 1857, the town had over 400 residents, but, due to the use of mining with hydraulics, much of the gold was quickly depleted and so the population soon moved on.

The prime time of North Bloomfield was from 1860 to 1884, when it had nearly 1,500 inhabitants and more than 200 buildings. A community still lives here today and tours are offered on a daily basis.

North Bloomfield

Address: Google map of location

Website: North Bloomfield

See our full list of recommended hotels in California and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in California

7. Chemung Mine

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Another ghost town that needs to be approached with caution, this was a small settlement founded in 1909, that consisted of a mine and a few supportive buildings, such as a general store and bunkhouse. The Chemung Mine was one of the longest surviving mines, still operating long after others had closed their doors. What remains today are a few crumbling wooden buildings and many are unsafe to enter, so beware.

Chemung Mine

Address: Google map of location

Website: Chemung Mine

See our full list of recommended hotels in California and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in California

8. Panamint City

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Founded in Inyo County, in 1873, as a silver mining town, Panamint City was known for its debauchery. In fact, it was so infamous that Wells Fargo refused to open an office here. Sadly, in 1876, a flash flood killed most of the residents and soon afterwards the remaining population left.

This location is difficult to reach because you can’t get here by car and instead you must complete a difficult five-mile (8 km) hike, which begins at Chris Wicht’s Camp.

Panamint City

Address: Google map of location

Website: Panamint City

See our full list of recommended hotels in California and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in California

9. Mentryville


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Mentryville is located near LA and was the site of the first successful oil well in the USA! The town was founded in the 1880s and was home to over 100 families until the well closed in 1990. As it is an important historical site, some of the buildings such as Charles Mentry’s expansive mansion, a small, one-room schoolhouse, and a period barn are all now registered California State Historical Landmarks.

There is still plenty of restoration work happening on site here, so be sure to check what is open for viewing.

Mentryville

Address: Google map of location

Website: Mentryville

See our full list of recommended hotels in California and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in California

10. Calico



The town of Calico was founded in 1881, during California’s largest silver strike. Unfortunately, during the mid-1890s, the value of silver severely decreased and, as such, Calico and its residents lost their fortune, meaning that many had to leave.

The town was lovingly restored in the 1950s, and, more recently, the then-Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger declared it “California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town.”

Calico

Address: Google map of location

Website: Calico

See our full list of recommended hotels in California and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in California

Ghost hunting

It is always good fun to visit a ghost town but just remember that while some of these places are open to the public and therefore safe, some are not and the structures and ground might not be stable. Be cautious and happy ghost hunting!

A full-time global wanderer and volunteer. Strong compass leading to random and remote pockets of Earth; exploring jungles, abandoned villages and the open seas. Passionate about documenting on my...Read more

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